by J.R. Lind
This Week In The 'Drome, We Talk About Basketball (Briefly)
Inflated vs Deflated: This week in the Scene, I took a look at the looming Vanderbilt hoops season.
And "looming" might be the most appropriate word, used as it usually is to describe a sense of overarching doom and malaise. Vandy comes off a summer in which they lost an entire recruiting class to transfers and their best player from last season to suspension.
It's hard to make many judgments on a season, especially in college basketball from the semi-exhibitions (or in Vandy's case, an actual exhibition) that dot the early November calendar, but the 'Dores performance against Alabama-Huntsville Wednesday night won't calm any fears that Vandy will be sub-par.
The fact is, though, Stallings is often at his best when his teams are expected to be at their worse. He practically spent the entire winter gushing about his 16-17 team last year, heaping praise he never hoisted on the much more talented team from the year before.
If Vanderbilt fans are honest with themselves and can stomach another rebuilding year on the heels of what was supposed to be the rebuilding year (and with an upset of Kentucky and a semifinals appearance in the SEC tournament, that rebuild wasn't so bad as rebuilds go), Stallings may earn himself even more rope and more time to bring the program back to where the Black and Gold faithful expect it to be.
The Week Behind
So Much Depends Upon A Read Handshake Glazed With Pain Beside The White Yardmarkers: Perhaps not since the Cold War or perhaps Jimmy Carter's noble efforts at Mideast peace has a handshake been parsed so closely.
The fleshpress between Titans head coach Mike Munchak and erstwhile Titans coach Jeff Fisher at the conclusion of the closer-than-it-needed-to-be Titans win over the Rams Sunday was quickly parsed on postgame radio and in tweets.
So exhausted were we by this virtual salon that the straight-shooting David Climer had to step in to say what fans think but also what they are afraid to say, as is his vocation. In a column, Climer went 712 words to explain to us why we shouldn't care about the handshake. So let it be written, so let it be done.
Just Like They Drew It Up: The Preds won both games on the docket in this portion of the excruciatingly-long road trip, giving up leads in games against both LA and Colorado, before getting wins.
And with Pekka Rinne out for awhile with what is now reported to be an E. coli infection in his hip and with The Carter Hutton Adventure in net, the Predators are having to win by scoring goals. Lots of them. Gobs of them, in fact. Nashville's scored 14 goals in three games and Wednesday night against the Colorado Avalanche, which entered the game a surprising 12-1-0, Nashville got a four-point night from the heretofore quiet Colin Wilson and a goal and an assist from the heretofore pointless Viktor Stalberg.
For a team that gave up early leads all throughout the lockout-shortened 2013 season, an ability to stave off an opponent or to grab back a lead is a welcome sight.
Salute: In a tweet, Titans fullback Colin Mooney — who played a whale of a game against the Rams — announced he had made captain in the U.S. Army. Mooney is a West Point graduate.
Kick Back: John Glennon reports that semi-pro soccer — which disappeared from Nashville when the Metros went quiet — will make a return with Nashville Atlas FC, which, unlike the Metros, will play in a geographically-friendly league.
The Week Ahead
Jamming On The Boulevard: Double the sports in the dead-tree this week, as Steve Cavendish takes a look at the state of the city's best basketball rivalry, Belmont vs. Lipscomb, with former Rick Byrd protege Casey Alexander at the helm of the Bison(s).
The teams square off tonight — though yesterday would have been better, on the anniversary of the Civil War's Battle of Belmont.
Not Your Daddy's Florida: Vanderbilt travels to Gainesville for a rare 11 AM start in The Swamp, where James Franklin will try for what would be a moderate upset and ease his team closer to another year of bowl eligibility.
Vandy beating Florida would be a slight surprise, though not as dramatic as in year's past, with the Gators slumping through the season and falling victim to a terrible run of injury luck.
Not Your Daddy's Jaguars: Pity the Jacksonville Jaguars, as moribund a franchise as the NFL will tolerate.
The Titans still linger in the playoff picture and need to win both games against the dreadful Jags to keep pace. Mark Brunell ain't walking through that door, fortunately. Should be no problem for Tennessee.
The Meat: The Preds wind across the country with three games in the next seven days as they continue their franchise-record road trip.
Fortunately, the hard part of the roadie is behind them, as they've faced three of the Western Conference's best and coming back to Central Time with a 2-0-1 record (which, frankly, could have easily been 3-0-0...or 0-3-0, for that matter). If simply keeping pace was the goal of the extended time away from Bridgestone Arena, they need just one win in the next four games and there should be one win available somewhere between Winnipeg tonight, New Jersey Sunday or the Isles on Tuesday.
Dolphins players are seriously defending the behavior of now-suspended Richie Incognito, who — if numerous media reports have any veracity at all — left racist, nearly-sociopathic voicemails and text messages to teammate Jonathan Martin as part of a calculated and continuous campaign of bullying.
Should Martin have stood up for himself? Perhaps. The old schoolyard trope that the best way to deal with a bully is to punch him in the mouth may still hold true. But not everyone is wired that way, much as not everyone is a leader, despite our tendency to expect every professional athlete to be both a leader and someone who stands up for themselves.
Failing the required make-up to halt the bullying on his own, should Martin have drawn attention to Incognito's abuse, alerting the Dolphins front-office or the coaching staff or any of the leaders of the team? Perhaps and perhaps he did, which, if those he alerted were management, may raise some serious issues with Martin's union, and if those he alerted were his teammates, may raise serious questions as to what qualifies as leadership in the Miami locker room.
But here's a perhaps that seems to be glossed over: perhaps Incognito should act like a pro. Perhaps Incognito should act like an adult. Perhaps Incognito should act like a reasonably well-adjusted teenager and not heap hours of abuse on another human being.
There's being a lot of ink spilled and gabbledegook uttered on talk radio and TV about how the Dolphins and Martin should have dealt with the problem — and some of that talk is reasonable — and precious little spent on how Incognito wasn't acting in a way that should be tolerated in a workplace or modern civilized society.
Whether a team "tolerates" the behavior or whether Martin should have "done something about it" would be irrelevant points to argue if Incognito would have never started his relentless campaign against Martin in the first place.
Let's not get so lost in debating the solution that we forget how the problem started in the first place.
Emails to jrlind[at]nashvillescene[dot]com. Radio at 6PM most Tuesdays on 102.5 The Game. Every day PostSports